LESSON 89.

WOMEN MAY PREACH.

723.     The Church has often told woman¾we might say very loudly¾that Paul commanded her to “keep silence in the churches.” The Church has told woman very softly, or not at all, that Jesus Christ obliged one woman to not keep silence, but to proclaim before a great multitude, made up largely of men, that Christ had redeemed her from that very “curse,” as it has been called, which is supposed by some to lie at the base of the doctrine of silence and subordination for women, and which was the pretext for her original exclusion from service at the altar,¾see par. 673.

724.     The account of this woman’s case will be found in Luke 8:43-48. Zechariah had proclaimed, 500 years before this incident, that there was to be a “fountain opened for sin and uncleanness” (13:1), referring to the coming Christ, and using the very word for “uncleanness” which, according to Levitical law, separated a woman from the congregation of Israel (Lev. 15:19). Men straight from a battle; from stumbling over a grave in the churchyard; from administering comfort in the home of the dead, and from many other conditions producing that same state called “separation,” (or “uncleanness,” as translated), for which exclusion from the congregation of Israel was prescribed, have never thought of excluding themselves, even temporarily, from the altar of the Church. In a word, men found that “fountain for sin and uncleanness” when Christ came and took full advantage of it; but presently they excluded women from its benefits, and placed her back under Levitical disabilities.

725.     We have a lesson to learn from Christ’s bringing the woman to the front to declare her own redemption from an infirmity, instead of His merely declaring it for her. It is not enough that Christ’s teaching is plain on this subject, we women must proclaim this. It is not enough for women to modestly and quietly seek their own redemption, they must proclaim it, even when that proclamation lays them open to the false charge of immodesty.

726.     This brings us to another lesson that Christ taught, when he caused yet another woman not to keep silence. This case is recorded in Luke 13:11-13. We can easily picture this poor deformed creature making her way wearily to the synagogue, to hear the great Prophet; climbing the steps to the stuffy little compartment behind a lattice, usually up in the gallery under the roof. How amazed she must have been to have the great Prophet call out suddenly, “Mary, come here to me.” The other women help her to descend as quickly as possible, and she walks up the aisle to the platform with trembling feet, and stands in a most unusual position,¾out in public, among all the men! Gently He spoke to her and “laid His hands on her,” and behold! not only is she “loosed from her infirmity” of a bowed back, but also of a silenced tongue; “she was made straight and glorified God.” This means, of course, that she broke the silence with her hallelujahs, and with rapid tongue began to tell eagerly all about her former suffering, and healing, to all in the synagogue.

727.     Of course it angered the Rabbi in charge, and he forbade the people coming to be healed any more on the Sabbath day. Christ first answers him effectually on this “Sabbath question,” and then He takes up the “woman question.” This act of the “laying on of hands” afterwards came into use among the Apostles as the ceremony which fitted men for preaching the Gospel and to this day men boast that they are in the “Apostolic Succession.” which means that someone laid hands on them, who had had hands laid upon him, of one who had had hands laid upon him, of one, etc., etc., all the way back to an Apostle. They forget that this “laying on of hands” goes farther back than to the Apostles, to a certain woman, who had Christ’s hands laid upon her; and she immediately responded by publicly glorifying God, in spite of the prohibitions of man. Men might have been not merely in the “Apostolic succession,” but in the Divine succession, had they not despised the ministry of women. They should have sought of this woman the “laying on of hands,” if there be any virtue in “succession.”

728.     After answering the Rabbi on the Sabbath question, Jesus uttered two parables. That the incident of the healing led to the utterance of the parables is not made clear in the A. V. which translates, “Then said He, Unto what is the kingdom of God like?” The R.V.is more correct, rendering, “He said, therefore,” etc. But Weymouth’s Modern English translation brings out the full force of the connection, rendering, “This prompted Him to say.” He was prompted to say that man took the seed of the kingdom and planted it in his own garden. That planting has done a vast deal of good to all mankind, including women. But yet it is true, that in teaching woman to forever do penance for the sin of Eve, while Adam was to be exalted to government over woman (something he did not have previously), by the sin in Eden, there has been something very self interested and selfish in the way man has preached the Gospel of the kingdom.

729.     But Christ’s parable prophesies that one day the kingdom will be like leaven in woman’s hand. Oh, I know they tell us that this leaven “always means something evil.” Do not believe it! This was supposed to be a necessary invention to combat the teaching that the world will gradually grow better and better till the end. This is not the first instance of well-intentioned men getting so nervous lest true doctrines are not sufficiently forcefully taught in Scripture, that they have unwarrantably twisted the truth. Christ said, of the “kingdom of God,” “it is like a grain of mustard seed.” Again He said, “Whereunto shall I liken the kingdom of God? It is like leaven.” Scripture has no sense, if this plain statement is not sufficient to prove that leaven is not always something evil,¾since the kingdom is not evil. And besides, things that are equal to the same things are equal to each other; and so long as men teach that the “mustard seed” is something good, do they prove that leaven is, in this parable, something good also. “Like” does not mean like, if leaven is “something evil” here.

730.     God never directed man to put “something evil” in his offerings to God. Read Leviticus 7:13 and 23:17. To be sure, leaven was not to be burned in sacrifice, but that was because the odor was not pleasant (Leviticus 2:11,12). And no leaven was allowed at the Passover time, and we are expressly told that this was because unleavened bread was “the bread of affliction,” and to commemorate the haste of the departure from Egypt (Deuteronomy 16:3). Whether leaven refers to something good or something evil, depends upon the context. It signifies merely an all-pervading influence.

We may be sure that our mothers will never preach the Gospel in such a manner as to exalt one sex above the other. And when that mournful time comes of which Paul prophesies, the “falling away” of the Church, and the banner of the Cross is trailed in the dust, we may expect to see our mothers seize the precious standard, and raise it aloft, for, as Payne-Smith says, “God has never given to any body of men whatsoever a chartered right to lock up heaven, and let His people perish for lack of knowledge.” We are coming very close to such times, if we may judge from the rationalistic utterances from our present-day pulpits. “Three measures of meal” does not mean the whole world. This was the usual quantity used to supply bread for a family. The meaning is that the whole family of God will each have his or her share.

731.     On a third occasion the Master’s words so stirred a woman’s heart that she began to pour out blessings on His head; she “preached Christ” after her own fashion, interrupting Him in His discourse to do so. Did Christ silence the woman? Not at all. He said “Amen” to what she uttered, and added to her teaching (Luke 11:27). Yet apparently not one of these three incidents of unrebuked women speaking in public in Christ’s presence has ever been sufficient to arrest the attention of expositors to the degree that they would consider whether Paul’s one utterance, “Let the women keep silence,” could not be brought into conformity with the precedent set by Jesus, and with the Apostle’s own words elsewhere. But if one such saying is pronounced sufficient to silence one half¾yes, more than one half¾the Church membership, why are not other sayings sufficient to silence the other half?

Lesson 90     INDEX      Home